One of the most intriguing NFL draft classes I've covered in my 43 years of doing this wrapped up Saturday, and it's time for one of my favorite -- and most exhausting -- exercises every year.
Before we get into my NFL draft grades, here are a few nuggets I found interesting from this 2021 class:
Offensive players were taken with each of the first seven picks of the draft, which is the latest the first defender has gone off the board in the common draft era (since 1967).
Eight quarterbacks through the top three rounds were the most in the common draft era.
It was the first time ever that at least five wide receivers were taken in each of the first three rounds.
That speaks to how the NFL is changing, and it shows that this class lacked special defenders. I don't think that will be the norm going forward, though.
So, you want the grades, I know. Same rules as always: I grade all 32 teams' classes using my own rankings as the prism to gauge how effectively each addressed key personnel holes, and how efficient each was in maneuvering the board and adding extra picks or future assets.
We'll start with the best grades and go to the worst, with teams that have identical grades listed in alphabetical order. Here we go:
Jump to a team:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH
Los Angeles Chargers: A
Top needs: OT, CB, OLB:
The Chargers' top two needs headed into this draft were clearly defined: a left tackle to protect Justin Herbert and a starting-caliber corner. General manager Tom Telesco hit both of those early, and he didn't have to reach.
Rashawn Slater (13) was a popular fit for mock drafts, and there were some teams that had a higher grade on him than Penei Sewell. He has the potential to be an All-Pro left tackle. Now, with the additions in free agency of Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler, this offensive line is suddenly one of the league's 10 best. Herbert was pressured a whopping 217 times last season. I said it on Thursday -- this pick is a dream come true for the Chargers. I thought cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (47) would go earlier than he did, but he could play in the slot or outside as a rookie. L.A. upgraded with both of these picks.
Wideout Josh Palmer (77) averaged 21 yards per catch in 2018, and his numbers would have been better if he had consistent quarterbacks throwing to him. Tight end Tre' McKitty (97) wasn't used much as a receiver in his lone season at Georgia, but he can block a little bit. Versatile linebacker Chris Rumph II (118) was one of my top available prospects for Day 3, and I'm curious where he'll fit in Brandon Staley's defense. Larry Rountree III (198), my eighth-ranked running back, put up 3,720 career rushing yards at Missouri.
Again, Telesco didn't reach to fill two big voids, and so this class is one of the best of the year. This team absolutely got better.